TS Some very sad news
touchst at cy-net.net
Wed Jan 31 21:01:20 CST 2007
From the NY Times tonight
Molly Ivins, Populist Texas Columnist, Dies at 62
Published: January 31, 2007
Molly Ivins, the liberal newspaper columnist who delighted in
skewering politicians and interpreting, and mocking, her Texas
culture, died today at her home in Austin. She was 62.
Her death, after a long fight with breast cancer, was confirmed by
her personal assistant, Betsy Moon.
In her syndicated column, which appeared in about 350 newspapers, Ms.
Ivins cultivated the voice of a folksy populist who derided those who
acted too big for their britches. She was rowdy and profane, but she
could filet her ideological opponents with droll precision.
J. Buchanan, as a conservative candidate for president, declared at
National Convention that America was engaged in a cultural war, she
said his speech "probably sounded better in the original German."
"There are two kinds of humor," she told People magazine. One was the
kind "that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared
humanity," she said. "The other kind holds people up to public
contempt and ridicule. That's what I do."
Hers was a feisty voice that she developed in the early 1970s at The
Texas Observer, the muckraking biweekly that would become her
spiritual home for life.
Her subject was Texas. To her, the Great State, as she called it, was
"reactionary, cantankerous and hilarious," and its legislature was
"reporter heaven." When the legislature was set to convene, she
warned her readers: "Every village is about to lose its idiot."
Her Texas upbringing made her something of an expert on the Bush
family. She viewed President
H.W. Bush benignly. ("Real Texans do not use the word 'summer' as a
verb," she wrote.)
But she derided President
W. Bush, whom she first knew in high school. She called him Shrub and
Dubya. With the Texas journalist Lou Dubose, she wrote two
best-selling books about Mr. Bush: "Shrub: The Short but Happy
Political Life of George W. Bush" (2000) and "Bushwhacked" (2003).
In 2004 she campaigned against Mr. Bush's re-election, and as the war
in Iraq continued, she called for his impeachment. In her last
column, earlier this month, she urged readers to "raise hell" against the war.
Mary Tyler Ivins was born on Aug. 30, 1944 in California and grew up
in the affluent Houston suburb of River Oaks. Her father, James, a
conservative Republican, was general counsel and later president of
Tenneco Corporation, an oil and gas company.
As a student at private school, Ms. Ivins was tall and big-boned and
often felt out of place. "I spent my girlhood as a Clydesdale among
thoroughbreds," she said.
She developed her liberal views partly from reading The Texas
Observer at a friend's house. Those views led to fierce arguments
with her father about civil rights and the Vietnam War.
"I've always had trouble with male authority figures because my
father was such a martinet," she told The Texas Monthly.
After her father developed advanced cancer and shot himself to death
in 1998, she wrote: "I believe that all the strength I have comes
from learning how to stand up to him."
Like her mother, Margot, and grandmother, Ms. Ivins went to Smith
College in Massachusetts. Graduating in 1966, she also studied at the
Institute of Political Science in Paris and earned her master's
degree at the
University Graduate School of Journalism.
Her first newspaper jobs were at The Houston Chronicle and The
Minneapolis Tribune, now The Star Tribune. In 1970, she jumped at the
chance to move to Austin, where she became co-editor of The Observer.
Covering the statehouse, she found characters whose fatuousness
helped focus her calling and define her persona, which her friends
saw as populist and her detractors saw as manufactured cornpone. Even
her friends marveled at how quickly she could drop her Texas voice
for what they called her Smith voice. Sometimes she combined the two,
as in: "The sine qua non, as we say in Amarillo."
Ronnie Dugger, the former publisher of The Observer, said the
political circus in Texas inspired her. "It was like somebody snapped
the football to her and said, 'All the rules are off, this is the
football field named Texas, and it's wide open,"' he said.
In 1976, her writing, which she said was often fueled by "truly
impressive amounts of beer," landed her a job at The New York Times.
She cut an unusual figure in The Times newsroom, wearing blue jeans,
going barefoot and bringing in her dog, whose name was an expletive.
While she drew important writing assignments, like covering the Son
of Sam killings and
Presley's death, she sensed she did not fit in and complained that
Times editors drained the life from her prose. "Naturally, I was
miserable, at five times my previous salary," she later wrote. "The
New York Times is a great newspaper: it is also No Fun."
After a stint in Albany, she was transferred to Denver to cover the
Rocky Mountain states, where she continued to challenge her editors'
capacity for prankish writing.
Covering an annual chicken slaughter in New Mexico in 1980, she used
a sexually suggestive phrase, which her editors deleted from the
final article. But her attempt to use it angered the executive
editor, A.M. Rosenthal, who ordered her back to New York and assigned
her to City Hall, where she covered routine matters with little flair.
She quit The Times in 1982 after The Dallas Times Herald offered to
make her a columnist. She took the job even though she loathed
Dallas, once describing it as the kind of town "that would have
rooted for Goliath to beat David."
But the paper, she said, promised to let her write whatever she
wanted. When she declared of a congressman, "If his I.Q. slips any
lower, we'll have to water him twice a day," many readers were
appalled, and several advertisers boycotted the paper. In her
defense, her editors rented billboards that read: "Molly Ivins Can't
Say That, Can She?" The slogan became the title of the first of her six books.
After The Times Herald folded in 1991, she wrote for The Fort Worth
Star-Telegram, until 2001, when her column was syndicated by Creators
Ms. Ivins, who never married, is survived by a brother, Andy, of
London, Tex., and a sister, Sara Ivins Maley, of Albuquerque, N.M.
One of her closest friends was
Richards, the former Texas governor, who died last year. The two
shared an irreverence for power and a love of the Texas wilds.
"Molly is a great raconteur, with a long memory," Ms. Richards said,
"and she's the best person in the world to take on a camping trip
because she's full of good-ol-boy stories."
Ms. Ivins worked at a breakneck pace, adding television appearances,
book tours, lectures and fund-raising to a crammed writing schedule.
She also wrote for Esquire, the Atlantic Monthly and The Nation.
An article about her in 1996 in The Star-Telegram suggested that her
work overload may have caused an increase in factual errors in her
columns. (She eventually hired a fact-checker.) And in 1995, the
writer Florence King accused Ms. Ivins of lifting passages from Ms.
King' for an article that Ms. Ivins had written in Mother Jones in
1988. Ms. Ivins had credited Ms. King six times in the article but
not in two lengthy sentences, and she apologized to Ms. King.
Ms. Ivins learned she had breast cancer in 1999 and was typically
unvarnished in describing her treatments. "First they mutilate you;
then they poison you; then they burn you," she wrote. "I have been on
blind dates better than that."
But she continued to write her columns and continued to write and
raise money for The Observer.
Indeed, rarely has a reporter so embodied the ethos of her
publication. On the paper's 50th anniversary in 2004, she wrote:
"This is where you can tell the truth without the bark on it, laugh
at anyone who is ridiculous, and go after the bad guys with all the
energy you have."
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